The Hanford Elementary School District is taking preventative measures to help students who are sensitive to poor air quality.

The district has partnered with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Central California Asthma Collaborative to implement the Healthy Air Living Schools program. The program was developed to notify schools when there is poor air quality and to also educate people how they can improve students’ health in ways: like not idling their cars in front of schools.

The district held a press conference on Wednesday at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School to highlight what educators are doing to promote healthy air living by using the Real-Time Advisory Network (RAAN), anti vehicle-idling materials and the Real-Time Outdoor Advisory Risk (ROAR) which is used to provide recommendations for physical activity for students depending on air quality levels.

The RAAN system is used to display air quality information in real time and can be found on the district’s website at www.hesd.k12.ca.us.

“It provides up to date air quality information in our area,” said Karen McConnell, the district’s assistant superintendent of special services. “Each of our schools has this information and we base outdoor activities with the RAAN system.”

McConnell said the district has also implemented an anti-idling policy by placing signs in front of schools and bus lanes to discourage parents to keep their vehicles running when they are waiting to pick up their children from school.

“As a district we have made every effort to protect our students’ health from the many poor air quality issues as possible,” McConnell said.

Heather Heinks, who is the outreach and communications manager for Valley Air District, said the RAAN system can show people when to take advantage of good air quality like during the early morning.

She said there are more than 30 real-time air monitoring systems spread throughout the Valley that puts data on the RAAN system every hour.

Heinks said they have healthy air programs in more than 800 schools throughout the San Joaquin Valley and hope to grow the number even more.

In addition to the two systems and the anti-idling policy, MLK school created two classrooms for students to use during recess who are sensitive to poor air quality. The two rooms are a computer lab for students to play computer games and an air quality classroom that is filled with other activities. The rooms have been used for two years. School officials said there are more poor quality air days during warm weather.

“Those are very nice areas for kids to go to when they know the air is unhealthy,” said the school’s principal Debra Colvard.

Colvard said by using the RAAN system, school personnel are able to inform students with asthma when the air is going to be unhealthy. She said the two rooms give students the opportunity to have fun inside compared to being outside and exposed to unhealthy air.

The school received a $250 grant this year from the Central California Asthma Collaborative to purchase games, art supplies and other activities for the air quality room.

Colvard said 30 to 40 students can occupy both rooms when the air is unhealthy for them to play outside.

Jasmine Sanchez, fifth-grader at MLK, said she has allergies and is happy that she can go into the air quality room when it is unhealthy to be outside. She said she plays board games and works on homework.

“I am very thankful that there is an air quality room at our school because we get to be safe,” Jasmine said.

Fifth-grader Jillian Stevens said she is also happy that her school has a room for her to hang out at when the air is bad. She said she suffers from asthma, so her teacher informs her when the air is too unhealthy to be outside.

Central California Asthma Collaborative communication and outreach manager Destiny Rodriguez said the group reached out to school districts in Kings County to implement the Healthy Air Living Schools program.

Rodriguez said their organization gives money to schools to pay for projects about healthy air and works closely with the Valley Air District.

She said Lemoore Union Elementary School District is very active in the program along with Central Union School District, Kit Carson Union School District, Island Union School District, Armona Union School District, Reef-Sunset Unified School District and Lemoore Union High School District.

“This is just something that is very important for schools because there are a lot of asthmatic children in the Valley,” Rodriguez said.

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